New York City

How New York City can take advantage of connected health devices

The city has seen positive responses from residents who've started using FitBits.

Fit bit

Fit bit Shutterstock

Connected health devices are everywhere. Even if you don’t own a FitBit or Apple Watch yourself, you’ll doubtless run into someone wearing one of these devices that, in addition to a host of other functions, is collecting and tracking information like heart rate and sleep data. And while local hospital systems and New York City itself have been adopting the new technology to help better health outcomes and patient-provider interactions, there is still room for improvement. At City & State’s Health Innovation Summit on Thursday, a panel representing both the public and private sector weighed in: Joshua Breitbart, deputy chief technology officer at the New York City Mayor's Office of the Chief Technology Officer; Michael J. Jabbour, formerly of the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and now assistant commissioner at the city Department of Social Services; and Lisa Sershen, chief digital officer at Westmed Medical Group.

Breitbart said that the city surveyed residents of the Queensbridge Houses and found that health, fitness and social engagement were major concerns, but then saw a lot of positive responses once some of those residents started using FitBits. “(It) led to organizing bus trips to the gym, which led to community organizing for better food at the local grocery store,” he said. “I think it is a great indicator of what the connected devices can do when they're introduced … in this socially inclusive and community-specific way.”

Still, the increased usage of these devices poses privacy concerns, and those concerns can sometimes be a barrier to adopting the technologies. Even getting privacy terms and conditions in an accessible language is sometimes a hurdle. “A lot of privacy policies are not available in the languages that people speak, are not accessible to people with disabilities,” Jabbour said. “And I think that's one thing that we need to consider. And regulation may be warranted to require that.”

For the rest of today's tech news, head over to First Read Tech.

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